Studying Pre-colonial Gendered Use of Space in the Arctic: Spatial Analysis of Ceramics in Northwestern Alaska

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Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

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Activities and production among Iñupiaq peoples were primarily divided by gender. This gendered division of labor also extended to a spatial segregated pattern of the household in some Arctic cultures, while others had a gender-integrated spatial pattern. There are very few archaeological studies of gender, or studies of gendered space, in the Arctic. We study gendered use of space in pre-colonial Northwest Alaska through a spatial analysis of ceramic, and other gendered artifact, distributions in Thule-era houses from Cape Espenberg, Alaska. We used the HDBSCAN (Hierarchical Density Based Spatial Clustering of Applications with Noise) algorithm in Python to analyze and compare distributions of gendered artifacts. We found no clear evidence for gender-segregated use of space, or for specific activity areas. This does not mean that gender-segregated use of space or activity areas did not exist, we simply found little evidence supporting these practices due, at least in part, to issues of sample size, house size, and the role of secondary and post-deposition processes in shaping the ceramic assemblage and distribution. Our analysis identified several interesting patterns of behavior, particularly related to site-formation processes. Further, this study illustrates the potential of Python for conducting archaeological spatial analysis.


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